Sixers

Fresh off season's best win, Sixers face Grizzlies team hot without Morant

Sixers

The Sixers have four wins in their last five games, the Grizzlies seven in their last eight.

Here are the essentials for Monday night’s matchup between two hot teams:  

  • When: 8 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 7:15 p.m. 
  • Where: FedExForum
  • Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia 
  • Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams app 

And here are three storylines to watch: 

Grizzlies thriving without Morant 

Since Ja Morant sprained his left knee on Nov. 26, Memphis leads the league in defensive rating and net rating, per Cleaning the Glass. The Grizzlies’ star point guard entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols last week.

Tyus Jones has started in Morant’s spot. Desmond Bane, who said before the 2020 draft “there’s a lot of interest with Philly,” looks like a steal with the 30th pick. The 23-year-old wing has started every game for Memphis and averaged 16.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists, shooting 39.9 percent from three-point range. 

Bane was as mature a draft prospect as you’ll see, and he's proven he’s valuable in many ways besides shooting. Of course, the Sixers are quite pleased with the 21st pick in that draft, Tyrese Maxey. 

In addition to Morant, the Grizzlies will be without Brandon Clarke (right knee soreness), Sam Merrill (left ankle sprain) and Ziaire Williams (left ankle sprain). Bane, Steven Adams and Jaren Jackson Jr. are available after being listed as questionable with injuries earlier in the day. 

 

For the Sixers, Seth Curry was a late scratch with right shoulder soreness. The team started Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid.

Rookie Jaden Springer, who’s been playing for the 10-1 Delaware Blue Coats, suffered a concussion Saturday and is out. Two-way player Grant Riller remains sidelined by right shoulder soreness. 

What’s next after a thrilling win? 

The Sixers had a lot of good reasons to be motivated Saturday. They were in the national spotlight against a much-hyped 21-4 team and in front of a packed arena wondering whether Stephen Curry would break Ray Allen's career three-point record.

The team’s victory over the Warriors was its best thus far. It wasn’t a flawless showing, though, as Embiid acknowledged after a 26-point, nine-rebound night.

“We didn’t play well today,” Embiid said, “but we did a good enough job. We can get way better. … We always can get better, and that’s the good thing about us.”

For Thybulle, the most obvious area for potential improvement is three-point shooting; he’s at 29.2 percent this season from long range after a 2-for-3 game. Defensively, Thybulle often seems to be in his own league. 

Looking for second-unit consistency 

In Shake Milton’s 19 minutes, the Sixers outscored Golden State by 20 points. 

That number doesn’t illustrate everything about the Sixers’ bench, but the team’s second unit did indeed play well Saturday. Andre Drummond was comfortably superior to Nemanja Bjelica and teamed up nicely on pick-and-rolls with Milton. Korkmaz is still stuck in an extended slump — he’s made 27.8 percent of his field goals and 19.4 percent of his three-pointers over the last 16 games — but knocked down an important jumper late in the third quarter. 

Milton, Drummond, Korkmaz and Georges Niang have been regulars off the bench. Danny Green has not, but he ceded his starting job on Saturday to Thybulle so the third-year wing could shadow Curry. We'll see whether such a move becomes more common for head coach Doc Rivers. Regardless, the Sixers would be happy if their bench starts stringing together positive performances.